Technical Grade vs Higher Grade IPA?

Published: Wednesday, 13 January 2021
Technical Grade vs Higher Grade IPA?

1. What is Technical Grade?

Technical Grade is also known as Industrial Grade, commonly used for commercial or industrial purposes. It is the most generic grade of chemical in terms of purity and quality. Technical grade chemicals are intended for non-critical processes such as rinsing laboratory glassware or as raw materials in production. They have limited specification and can often contain impurities and contamination, making it unsuitable for application in critical and highly regulated industries such as medical, pharmaceutical, electronics, food and beverage.

Technical Grade vs Higher Grade IPA?

2. Why people use Technical Grade Chemicals?

Despite of their limited application, there are manufacturers who are still using technical grade chemicals that do not meet any necessary compliance or internationally recognised quality standards in place of the higher grade for application in regulated industries. Certainly, this is because technical grade chemicals have the lowest price, are highly accessible and readily available in the market.

Technical Grade vs Higher Grade IPA?

3. What is IPA?

Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) is the simplest secondary alcohol.It is also known as isopropanol, 2-propanol, dimethyl carbinol and sec-propyl alcohol, is a colorless, flammable chemical intermediate and solvent. It is miscible in both polar and non-polar systems. It is a relatively low-cost and low toxicity solvent thus is utilised in many applications.

4. Some Applications of IPA[1]

  1. Feedstock for production of acetone, methyl isobutyl ketone, methyl isobutyl carbinol, isopropyl amine and isopropyl acetate.
  2. Solvent for industrial products: Dissolution of a variety of oils, gums, waxes, resins, and alkaloids for manufacturing of such as cements, primers, varnishes, paints, printing inks, etc.
  3. Solvent for industrial procedures: Extraction and Gasification
  4. Solvent for cosmetics: Lotions, perfumes, shampoos,skin cleansers, nail polishes, makeup removers, deodorants, body oils, and skin lotions.
  5. Aerosol products: Hair sprays, floor detergents, shoe polishes, insecticides, burn ointments, window cleaners, waxes and polishes, paints, automotive products, insect repellents, flea and tick spray, air refreshers, disinfectants, veterinary wound and pinkeye spray, first-aid spray, foot fungicide, and fabric-wrinkle remover
  6. Disinfectants or sanitisers for home, hospital, food and beverage industry.
  7. Excipients for pharmaceutical industry.

5. IPA can be easily contaminated by VOCs

Technical Grade vs Higher Grade IPA?

GC-FID is employed to measure and compare overall chemical purity and content of key contaminants of technical grade and processed IPA. Clearly shown in the above output of GC-FID, technical grade IPA contains considerable amount of varying impurities which is not desired for high-end industries’ application. Technical grade IPA after processing has greatly eliminated most of the unwanted contaminants. An example in pharmaceutical industry, impurities in drug products even in a small amount, can increase the potential for toxicity, side effects and serious implications for human health and environment.

6. Non-volatile residue can be easily dissolved in IPA

Chemicals Before After
Technical Grade IPA Technical Grade vs Higher Grade IPA? Technical Grade vs Higher Grade IPA?
Processed IPA,
Analytical Reagent (AR Grade)
Technical Grade vs Higher Grade IPA? Technical Grade vs Higher Grade IPA?

In food and beverage industry, alcohol-based food contact surface disinfectant is used to clean, disinfect and sanitise food contact surfaces and equipment. Alcohols are favoured because of their fast acting with broad spectrum activity, fast evaporating and most importantly leaving zero residues after application.With evaporation of solvents on a metal plate, an unknown precipitate is observed for technical grade IPA while the processed IPA (AR grade)literally contains no impurities. IPA is a very good solvent thus can be easily cross-contaminated when not handled properly.

This simple test demonstrates that technical grade IPA is genuinelynotsafe and appropriate to be used for critical application such as hand sanitiser, food contact or non-food contact surface disinfecting solution and cleaning solution for medical devices and electronics.

In conclusion, the different and higher grades of chemicalsensure thatthe mandatory compliance, quality standards and product safety are followed. It is important to understand the different grades and choose the right grade of chemicals for your application.


[1] Logsdon JE, Loke RA, Isopropyl alcohol, Kirk?Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, 2000.

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